Japan on Wednesday approved a new energy policy that seeks to halt functioning of all its 50 nuclear reactors sometime in the 2030s.
A Cabinet meeting approved the proposal, compiled by relevant Ministers last Friday. It calls for consulting host municipalities and the international community on whether to continue nuclear power generation. But the Cabinet did not approve the document itself, as some in Japan's business sector oppose halting nuclear power generation.
The United States, which signed a civilian nuclear pact with Japan, has also expressed concern.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said earlier that the government should come up with a strategy that has a stable direction but also remain flexible.
Observers express doubt whether Japan will really phase out nuclear power in the 2030s, as the Cabinet is suggesting that it wants to respond flexibly to future changes in circumstances, Japanese media reported.
Defending the policy, National Policy Minister Motohisa Furukawa said the new policy laid a clear course while retaining the flexibility to deal with any eventuality.
He said the Cabinet took into consideration that the new policy would be used as the basis for future environmental and energy measures. He stressed that the Cabinet had not changed the contents of the Ministers' proposal.
Meanwhile, Noda appointed Shunichi Tanaka as head of the country's new Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA). Tanaka was deputy head of the Atomic Energy Commission.
The NRA was set up to replace the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, which was criticized for being under the control of the Economy, Trade & Industry Ministry that promoted nuclear power.
Noda also appointed four NRA committee members, including a nuclear reactor expert and a seismologist.
The Prime Minister asked the authority to do its best to regain public trust in nuclear power operations, which was broken by the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Tanaka told reporters that the NRA would deal with the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear accident and establish a system of disaster preparedness. He pledged to start with lessons learned from the disaster to ensure nuclear power safety.
The government was forced to evolve a new energy policy as the country's reliance on nuclear power was considerably weakened after last year's Fukushima accident which sent radioactive materials into the ocean and atmosphere, contaminating the food and water supply, and forcing the evacuation of 160,000 residents in a 30-kilometer radius of the tsunami-wrecked nuclear power plant operated by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) in Japan's northeast.
by RTT Staff Writer
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